Marthe Naudts is the CEO and Founder of the Oxford Business Review, a website and
magazine aiming to provide all students with the insights, skills and community needed to
thrive in the world of business. Marthe manages the senior team, and oversees their work
with the sixty writers currently producing articles. With tens of thousands of views on the website, the OBR is now open to pitches from students at any UK university and hopes to develop a subscription service and events network for students in the near future.
What is your background? What made you decide to get involved in supporting entrepreneurs?
Throughout my degree, I have been involved with social enterprise activities, and have been particularly involved with one NGO who operates out of Oxford, Right for Education. They are a leading platform for online educational content in Africa. There, I was working as part of a team, and had a real desire to create something myself in media. I also recognised that there wasn’t an equivalent in Oxford to the Harvard Business Review, and after speaking to lots of different university members, found that this was something many others had spotted too. I wanted to create a community which brought together the
widest variety of undergrad, postgrad and alumni together, creating high quality content and a high quality community.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
Finding problems and solving them, both in the world and your product
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
I didn’t meet a single person who didn’t agree that this was a massive gap in Oxford’s otherwise very active output. So talking to others showed me that my idea was valid, and then when we executed this idea through the website, it was validated through the numbers attracted to the site each day.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
I think adaptability is key – we’re still in the early stages really, but the product, the team, the problem and the solution are continually changing! You have to be prepared for this and enjoy it. I also think self-awareness is important. You need to see where your own gaps are and actively seek to find people for your team who are better than you, so you can delegate accordingly. You then have the strongest team around you who are prepared to constantly come up with ideas and act off their own back. The other side of this, though, is that you need a good balance of confidence in yourself and recognising your
flaws. You need to be confident in what you do, and not internalise failures as a sign of not being good enough.
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
My favourite part is working with my team – at the beginning none of us knew each other and so everything was quite formal. But as time has gone on we’ve bonded and grown together, and it’s been so fun to see when things happen without me having to organise.
Another favourite element for me is always being outside of my comfort zone. Recognising that it’s never going to reach perfect, and the job isn’t going to be finished is exciting – knowing that things can always be better is a great way to constantly push yourself.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
Definitely my dad. Not only as a founder (which he was seriously good at) but also as a person and a dad. He’s taught me everything I know.
What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
A big moment for me was quite early on when the website launched. It was amazing seeing something that had only existed in my head become this real, tangible thing which people could interact with.
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
We’re definitely still evolving, and one thing we are finding tricky is having too many ideas. Over the past few months, we’ve been trying to articulate our vision which has meant getting as many potential ideas out there as possible, but now we need to reign it back in and get back to basics, producing high quality content on a regular basis. Another challenge we’ve faced is of course the pandemic, as I haven’t met the majority of the team in person! We’ve all said how much easier things would have been if we could have met in person, and also how much closer we would all be. None of the informal chit-chat happens on Zoom meetings: it’s simply log on, meeting, log off. But we’re working on it!
How have you funded your ideas?
This is something we’re currently figuring out – we want to launch a subscription service for the magazine and so we hope that this will allow us to become self-sustaining. Until then, we have set up a Patreon and are going to investigate grants and sponsorship, looking at resources from the university and Said Business School.
Have you faced any challenges as a woman entrepreneur? If so, how have you overcome them?
I don’t think I’ve faced any external challenges, although you’d need to factor in the fact that I am white and middle class too to this. Like a lot of women, though, I have experienced imposter syndrome. I don’t think that there are any particular strategies that I’ve used to overcome this, except for that the more you do something, the more natural it becomes. Talking to other women and having a strong support network of girls around you who want to build each other up is really important too.
How could institutions such as the University of Oxford better support women entrepreneurs?
I know that there are specific workshops for women entrepreneurs, but this does rely on women being confident enough to access them and join in. I really think interview series such as this one is useful; I’ve never come across a platform where there are so many women talking about their experiences so candidly. Just making these kinds of profiles visible is good for the women out there who aren’t perhaps as actively involved with innovation schemes and programmes.
Any last words of advice?
I’m maybe only really qualified to advise others students- and to them I’d say just go for it! You really have nothing to lose. The best thing about starting something as a student is that you don’t need to depend on it for your livelihood so you have total freedom to have fun and experiment. Another piece of advice is to always tell your team that they are doing a great job, especially with students who are putting in time, effort and skill on a voluntary basis. I probably need to do more of this as for a long time I just thought it was so obvious I didn’t need to say! I’d also like to encourage any student who thinks they might be interested at getting involved with the Oxford Business Review to reach out to me via the links below.